Some British press reports about missing Madeleine McCann in 2007 had been “embellished” or even made up, her father Gerry said in London on Tuesday (March 10).
Speaking to MPs on the UK parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee he said his daughter was treated as a “commodity” by the UK press.
And papers had, without evidence, published stories suggesting Madeleine was dead, which could have stopped people looking for her, he said.
“Although elements of the media coverage have undoubtedly been helpful in the ongoing search for Madeleine, our family have been the focus of some of the most sensationalist, untruthful, irresponsible and damaging reporting in the history of the press,” said Gerry McCann.
“If it were not for the love and tremendous support of our family, friends and the general public, this disgraceful conduct – particularly in the tragic circumstances in which we find ourselves – may have resulted in the complete destruction of our family.”
He said the press were much more interested in writing about him and his wife, what he called the “Kate and Gerry show”, than about the search for Madeleine.
“Madeleine was made a commodity and profits were to be made,” he told the committee.
Gerry McCann was also critical of many of the contributors to online chatrooms.
“I feel very sorry for those people who a need to do that [write abusive and unsubstantiated comments] and there’s something clearly missing in those lives.”
The McCanns’ spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, told the committee there had been a “churning upon churning of inaccuracy” by the media.
The police in Portugal made less use of public appeals to gain evidence than those in the UK, Mr McCann said, which had created a “difficult situation” for the family.
Portuguese prosecutors initially made Gerry and Kate McCann arguidos or formal suspects in the case but lifted this status in July last year when the case was shelved.